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Title: Long-Term Monitoring Reveals Differential Responses of Mussel and Host Fish Communities in a Biodiversity Hotspot
Biodiversity hotspots can serve as protected areas that aid in species conservation. Long-term monitoring of multiple taxonomic groups within biodiversity hotspots can offer insight into factors influencing their dynamics. Mussels (Bivalvia: Unionidae) and fish are highly diverse and imperiled groups of organisms with contrasting life histories that should influence their response to ecological factors associated with local and global change. Here we use historical and contemporary fish and mussel survey data to assess fish and mussel community changes over a 33 year period (1986–2019) and relationships between mussel abundance and their host fish abundance in Bogue Chitto Creek, a tributary of the Alabama River and a biodiversity hotspot. Mussel abundance declined by ~80% and community composition shifted, with eight species previously recorded not found in 2019, and a single individual of the endangered Pleurobema decisum. Fish abundances increased and life history strategies in the community appeared stable and there was no apparent relationship between mussel declines and abundance of host fish. Temporal variation in the proportion of life history traits composing mussel assemblages was also indicative of the disturbances specifically affecting the mussel community. However, changes and declines in mussel assemblages in Bogue Chitto Creek cannot be firmly attributed to any specific factor or events because of gaps in historical environmental and biological data. We believe that mobility differences contributed to differential responses of fish and mussel communities to stressors including habitat degradation, recent droughts and invasive species. Overall, our work indicates that monitoring biodiversity hotspots using hydrological measurements, standardized survey methods and monitoring invasive species abundance would better identify the effects of multiple and interactive stressors that impact disparate taxonomic groups in freshwater ecosystems.  more » « less
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